Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Origins of Human Speech

By Jeremy Shere, Indiana Public Media
Posted September 28, 2012

Scientists have searched for the origins of human speech in the hoots, grunts, and other vocalizations made by primates. It would seem to make sense, after all, that such sounds may be related to the more varied and articulated sounds we humans make. But there are significant differences.

For example, human speech is learned, made using controlled and rapid movements of the tongue, lips, and jaw. Primate vocalizations, on the other hand, are not learned but innate.


So some researchers are now considering the hypothesis that human speech evolved not from
primate sounds but more from monkey facial gestures.

Specifically, scientists are interested in how monkeys smack their lips to communicate. Using x ray movies, researchers at Princeton and the University of Vienna have found that primate lip smacking is much more complex than it appears. Like human speech, lip smacking requires quick, controlled movements of the lips, tongue, jaw, and hyoid bone, which supports the larynx and tongue.

Lip Smack

For example, if you’ve been to a zoo you’ve probably seen chimps making loud lip smacks and buzzing sounds, like blowing a raspberry. Scientists believe that these sounds are a controlled form of chimp communication.

This research doesn’t quite solve the puzzle of the evolution of human speech. But it is a fascinating clue that the way we speak may have developed from a combination of sounds produced by the vocal cords and by rapid, controlled movements of the vocal tract, including lips, tongue and jaw.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Linked Dishes Spot Black Hole Jets

If relativity is right, M87 is spinning
By Richard Chirgwin, Science, September 28, 2012

A set of linked radio-telescopes across Hawaii, Arizona and California has given scientists a close-up of the accretion disk of a distant supermassive black hole

The linked dishes, dubbed the Event Horizon Telescope, grabbed the fine details of a supermassive black hole in the M87 galaxy, some 50 million light-years distant, with a mass estimated at 6 billion times that of the Sun.

Their analysis, published in Science (abstract at ),

is based on analyzing the accretion disk surrounding the M87 black hole. The accretion disk, spinning at close to light-speed, is also the source of the jets of matter that typify black hole observations.

The scientists say their observation shows that the accretion disk is just 5.5 times the event horizon of M87 – a size which almost certainly means the M87 black hole is spinning, having received its orbital momentum from the accretion disk.

Were the black hole not spinning, the accretion disk would have to be 7.4 times the Schwartzchild radius, while if the two were spinning in opposite directions, the disk would have to be even larger – more than nine times the event horizon.

MIT researcher Shep Doelman said the observation helps provide confirmation of general relativity in the extreme environments near a black hole. The group, led by MIT’s Haystack Observatory, hopes to scale up in the future by adding dishes in Chile, Europe, Mexico, Greenland and Antarctica.

Friday, September 28, 2012

20 Products with Giant Markups

By Renee Morad, Money Talks News – Sep 27, 2012

If you’re a merchant seeking profits, there’s only one way to find them: sell stuff for more than you pay for it.

But what’s a fair markup? Fifty percent? One Hundred? Two? It depends on both product and business, but one thing’s for sure – some consumer goods are being sold for a whole lot more than they cost.

Whether you’re sipping a martini in a swanky bar or bottled water from the grocery store, odds are you’re swallowing an astronomical markup.

Here, in no particular order, is a larger list of products with high markups, along with ways to avoid paying a premium.

Movie theater popcorn/candy
What’s harder to digest: (1) Movie theater popcorn has an average markup of 1,275 percent, or (2) With a soda, that popcorn has a caloric equivalent of three McDonald’s Quarter Pounders? Nutrition aside, concessions like $5 tubs of popcorn and $6 boxes of gummy worms are big revenue streams for movie theaters.

Since most theaters prohibit moviegoers from bringing in outside food and drinks, the way to save is to bypass concessions altogether. If you can’t, find your cinematic savings elsewhere, like getting a five-pack of movie tickets for $30 at

Prescription drugs
Astronomical prescription drug prices – with markups ranging from 200 to 3,000 percent – are enough to give patients a headache. In fact, price hikes caught the eye of Arizona’s Attorney General Tom Horne, who is suing pharmaceuticals distributor McKesson Corp. for markups on Allegra, Celebrex, Coumadin, Flonase, Lipitor, and Valium.

To save on prescriptions, ask your doctor for free samples and about generic substitutes. Comparison-shopping is also a great idea. Walmart, Target, and warehouse stores like Costco are good places to start. And take advantage of mail-order suppliers like Express Scripts if your prescription-drug plan offers it.

Shoppers in the market for a diamond should be prepared to pay anywhere from 50 percent to 200 percent more than the wholesale cost, according to Information at this Google Answers page suggests markups range from 50 to 400 percent.

A diamond’s sparkle may cause shoppers to turn a blind eye to the price tag, but you can land a better deal by understanding what you’re buying and doing a lot of shopping.

Bottled water
Some claim bottled water’s markup reaches 4,000 percent – more expensive than gasoline. Saving is simple: drink tap water. If you’re concerned about taste or quality, use a water filtration system.

Salad bars

Some salad bar items are marked up more than 350 percent, according to Food Network Magazine. Items that aren’t worth their weight: chickpeas (386 percent markup over retail), radishes (302 percent), and baby corn (277 percent). To save, load up on the lighter items that cost less than you’d pay at the grocery store, like bacon bits (55 percent markdown) and grilled chicken (44 percent).

Eyeglass frames
Dishing out $450 for Armani frames? Markups for eyeglass frames can reach 1,000 percent. That’s certainly not unheard of. Fortunately, focusing on warehouse stores and the Internet can help you find discounts. Check out 8 Ways to Save on Eyeglasses for more ways to save up to 90 percent.

Fountain soda
Order a glass of Coke when you’re dining out, and you could pay 300 to 600 percent over cost. Sure, you know going into a restaurant that you’re paying for the service and ambiance too. But if you’re looking to save without sacrificing a night out, skip the extras like soda and opt for water instead.

Text messages
Outgoing text messages on a cell phone can cost the provider three-tenths of a cent, but users up to 20 cents – that translates to a 6,000 percent markup. Some plans charge 10,000 times more for sending a text than other types of data. If you frequently send text messages, get an unlimited plan.

It’s not uncommon for restaurants to charge two or even three times retail for a bottle of wine. Order by the glass, and you’re sipping on an item marked up as much as 400 percent. So scan the menu for a reasonably priced bottle (look for house wines).

Hotel minibars
Whether you’re reaching for a Snickers or a toothpaste kit, minibar markups can hit 400 percent. Some of the most ludicrous minibar prices, according to $14 gummy bears at Omni Berkshire Place and a $10 bottle of water at the Mansfield Hotel. Simple solution: Leave your room and prices drop significantly.

Coffee and tea
Lattes are one of life’s little luxuries, but they can be marked up by 300 percent. If you’re looking to save, start by turning on your coffeemaker and bypassing the coffee shop.

Some of the world’s most expensive handbags: a $3.8 million purse made by The House of Mouawad in Dubai that’s adorned with more than 4,000 colorless diamonds and a $1.9 million Hermes Birkin bag.

Women own an average of 10 handbags and spend an average of $148 on a handbag "splurge," according to a ShopSmart poll. Keep more cash in your purse by comparison-shopping online and in outlet stores. For more tips, read our story on Finding Designer Accessories at Deep Discounts.

Designer jeans
A $665 price tag on Gucci jeans and $225 for Sevens proves some shoppers are willing to go to great lengths for fashion. But these designer items are grossly overpriced. According to The Wall Street Journal, it costs about $50 to make True Religion’s best-selling jeans, Super T Jeans, but the wholesale price reaches $152 and the average retail price is inflated to $335.

Bakery goods
For items that can easily be baked at home, you could be paying a 100 percent markup. Granted, convenience is a factor, and maybe a baker is a better cook than you. If so, a good cookbook could offer a decent return on investment.

Greeting cards
Greeting cards are simple pieces of paper with a 200 percent markup. And that’s before factoring in so-called "Hallmark holidays." On a budget? Make your own cards – or better yet, if you have school-aged children, have them design one. This will likely amount to a more sentimental gesture and will leave a lasting impression.

College textbooks
Most college students will shell out about $655 for required textbooks this year, according to the National Association of College Stores. It’s no secret that most of these books come with monster markups. Read 11 Ways to Save Big on College Textbooks for cost-cutting tips, from asking professors about coursework in advance to textbook rentals.

An orchid can cost up to $25 per stem. Add Valentine’s Day or a wedding into the mix, and prices can surge. While disregarding flower purchases altogether isn’t always an option, shopping around for the best price is. Check out online retailers, and buy in season to help cut costs.

Produce is often marked up as much as 75 percent. Buying in season is the best way to find a bargain. As we explain in our Seasonal Savings post, look for deals on grapefruits and oranges in January, asparagus in March, and melons in May. Also steer clear of pre-cut veggies and fruit, which often have an additional markup of about 40 percent.

Furniture and mattresses
Furniture stores usually make a hefty margin, with markups of about 80 percent. Try to shop during sales, but if your timing is off, don’t be afraid to negotiate a better price. Also take note of the product number and then search online to see if any other retailers offer a lower price.

The average markup on cosmetics: 78 percent. Since most cosmetics are made from various combinations of dirt, oil, wax, and fragrance, it’s surprising that shoppers pay such a premium. But thanks to anti-aging claims and celebrity-endorsed marketing, shoppers have been breaking the bank to look younger and more beautiful for years. Fortunately, there are some simple ways to get more bang for your buck when purchasing beauty products (skip the drugstores and load up on free samples).

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Poetic Justice Is Fierce

Reported by the Associated Press: In New Fairfield Connecticut at 1am Thursday, a woman was alone in her house and believed someone was breaking in to it. So she called her next door neighbor, Jeffrey Giuliano, a fifth grade teacher at the local high school. Giuliano grabbed a hand gun and went outdoors, where a young burglar wearing a ski mask turned on him with a shiny object in his hand, presumably a weapon.

Giuliano fired his weapon at the individual in the black ski mask. Police arrived at the scene to find him sitting on the grass of the woman’s home with the burglar lying in the driveway. The young man with the ski mask was pronounced dead at the scene. And this perpetrator of the burglary was Tyler Giuliano, the man’s 15-year-old son.

Charges have not been filed. A state police investigation continues, and an autopsy on the boy is planned.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Two New Comets in 2013 Skies

The Second 2013 Comet May Outshine the Moon

A new comet has been discovered that is predicted to blaze incredibly brilliantly in the skies during late 2013. With a perihelion passage of less than two million kilometres from the Sun on 28 November 2013, current predictions are of an object that will dazzle the eye at up to magnitude —16. That's far brighter than the full Moon. If predictions hold true then C/2012 S1 will certainly be one of the greatest comets in human history, far outshining the memorable Comet Hale-Bopp of 1997 and very likely to outdo the long-awaited Comet Pan-STARRS (C/2011 L4) which is set to stun in March 2013.

A new comet, C/2012 S1, has been found by astronomers Vitali Nevski and Artom Novichonok of the International Scientific Optical Network in Russia. It will shine brightly in late November, 2013. The current brightness is a dim +18 but it will grow brighter to an enormous –16, if the expectations are met. It can’t be seen with the naked eye, but it is currently in the constellation Cancer. It may shine considerably more brightly than the moon, so it may become the brightest comet for hundreds or even thousands of years. It should be visible to the naked eye from November of 2013 until the middle of January, 2014.

Peter Grego of Astronomy Now magazine wrote about this discovery on September 25, 2012. This comet will pass within one million three hundred thousand miles of the sun on November 28, 2013. It is expected to be much brighter than the Pan-STAARS comet (C/2011 L4) which is expected in March of 2013.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Obama Will Be Re-Elected

I have learned that the roof has fallen in on Willard "Mitt" Romney and his presidential campaign. I’m serious. His Bain Capital invested a lot in a Chinese petroleum giant, CNOOC, which itself has spent $16 billion developing natural gas in Iran. So much for Romney’s posture for getting tough with China and Iran. Bain has also invested in a Chinese computer company, GOME, which is being sued by Microsoft for stealing software….

This news has been covered by Marketwatch (part of Dow Jones), in an Obama speech last night, by the Financial Times 9/24, in the UK on Channel 4, by the Boston Globe and by others you can Google. The GoP ought to dump Romney now, immediately, before the first debate, but I think they will stay on the political toboggan with him all the way through a disasterous election night.

     -- the Blog Author

Monday, September 24, 2012

A New Cybersecurity Power Grab


A cyber-publication called "TechDirt" has noticed that the failed cybersecurity legislation drafted last year in Washington has resurfaced as a draft executive order involving the Department of Homeland Security. Here is an article sumarizing the situation by the folks at TechDirt:

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Earlier this week, we [at] wrote about how the White House was working on an executive order to act as a "stand in" for cybersecurity legislation that has so far failed to pass Congress (CISPA passed in the House, but a different effort, the Cybersecurity Act, failed in the Senate, and it would have been difficult to get the two houses aligned anyway). Last weekend Jason Miller from Federal News Radio wrote about a draft he saw... but failed to share the actual draft. We got our hands on a draft (and confirmed what it was with multiple sources) and wanted to share it, as these kinds of things deserve public scrutiny and discussion. It's embedded below. As expected, it does have elements of the Lieberman/Collins bill (to the extent that the White House actually can do things without legislation). It's also incredibly vague. The specific requirements for government agencies are left wide open to interpretation. For example, the State Dept. should engage other governments about protecting infrastructure. Well, duh. As expected, most stuff focuses on Homeland Security and its responsibilities to investigate a variety of different cybersecurity issues -- but, again, it's left pretty vague.

There is, as expected, plans concerning information sharing -- but again, they're left pretty empty on specifics. It talks about an "information exchange framework." Unfortunately, it does not appear to highlight privacy or civil liberties concerns in discussing the information sharing stuff. That seems like a pretty big problem. Homeland Security is tasked with coming up with a way to share information, pulling on some existing efforts, but nowhere do they call out how to make sure these information exchange programs don't lead to massive privacy violations, despite the President's earlier promises that any cybersecurity efforts would take into account privacy and civil liberties.

Separately, it lists out 16 critical infrastructure "sectors," but those can be interpreted really broadly, which is dangerous. We all understand how things like the electric grid, nuclear power plants, water facilities and such can be seen as critical infrastructure. But does "communications" include things like social networking? It's important that any plan be very, very specific about what sorts of things are critical infrastructure, so as to avoid sweeping up all sorts of things like internet services and opening them up to information "sharing" abuse efforts by the government. We all know there's plenty of evidence that when the government is given a loophole to spy on private communications, it figures out ways to drive fleets of trucks through that hole. Unfortunately, there's little indication that any of that has really been taken into consideration.

All that said, it is important to recognize that this is a draft, and it is not only subject to change, but there are indications that it is likely to change. But, seeing as this could have significant impact, it should be something that the public has a chance to weigh in on.

Honestly, looking this over, you get the sense that it's really designed to do one thing: scare those who fought against the various bills back to the table to compromise and get a bill out. It's no secret that the administration's overall preference is to get a law in place, rather than this executive order. That's been a failed effort so far, but you have to wonder if this is a ploy to scare those who opposed the Cybersecurity Act into thinking that if they don't approve some legislation, the exec order might be a bigger problem. There are way too many things left open ended in this draft, and while the administration can't go as far as Congress on many things, the open-ended nature of this order could certainly lead to problems for the industries who opposed previous efforts.

Either way, we'll have some more on this next week, but since we just got this and want to get it out there for comment, hopefully folks can spend some time this weekend discussing the (yes, once again, vague) particulars...

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The link immediately above also provides access to the current draft of the executive order, a "predecisional draft" that is "for official use only."

Another news summary of the draft executive order is available at:

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Manipulated Unemployment Statistics

How The Government Manipulates Unemployment Statistics
By Daniel R. Amerman, CFA

…Thirty million more people over the age of 16 and one million fewer people being fully employed is a shortfall of 20 million jobs, and this by itself creates Great Depression range unemployment levels. Fundamentally, this is not even remotely consistent with a reported unemployment rate in the 8% range.

The government is attempting "information management" (aka manipulating statistics in a manner specifically intended to deceive) when it comes to how the public perceives this situation. The method used is to split the catastrophe into three boxes: putting 13.5 million jobless people into the first box of official unemployment for press release purposes; segmenting another 11.8 million jobless into the second box that is hidden in the U-6 footnotes, and making another 7.2 million jobless disappear completely by using the third box of changing the workforce participation rates (outside of U-6 since 2000).

Those three boxes add up to 32.5 million jobless, and the 12.5 million jobless over and above the 20 million missing jobs is in the ballpark for what would be "normal" (5.2%) full unemployment for a population of 242 million people aged 16 and above.

Everything adds up, and the big picture of those 20 million missing jobs reconciles with current improving official unemployment statistics when we dive deep into the heart of the workforce participation deception, and discover that the worst of the damage is among those younger than 55. That is the opposite of the cover story for the decline in labor force participation rates to date. But intuitively, this is a good fit with the big picture of 30 million more people in the working age civilian population, and 1 million fewer jobs.

We might expect that those who have good jobs would (mostly) pull those jobs forward in time along with them, but that those who enter the labor force behind their employed elders find that the door is shut, at least when it comes to the most desirable jobs. And it gets a little worse every year, as teens enter their 20s, go through their 20s, and then enter their early 30s, without ever landing the kind of solid and reliable middle class job that can support a family in a house (or pay enough in taxes to support a retiree and pay for their health care).

And when we pierce through the statistical manipulations - that is exactly what is happening.

Employment has been devastated among the young. Which is precisely why there has been such a blatant manipulation of workforce participation statistics among the young in particular. With nothing in those statistical manipulations changing the bigger picture of twenty million missing jobs, and a total that continues to grow annually.

Deceptions & The Problem With The Future

One of the big problems with deceptions is that they can have ripple effects.
These ripple effects can cause particular problems when it comes to our expectations about the future. If what we believe about the past and the present are both wrong - then when we project forward that false information, we get a result that is likely to be disastrously wrong.

This statistical problem is sometimes referred to as GIGO: Garbage In, Garbage Out. Unfortunately, we have a major GIGO problem when it comes to the future economy, tax revenues, deficits, Social Security, Medicare - and investment performance.

When we project forward the train wreck that has been happening with employment and workers younger than 55 - then everything that we think we know about Social Security, Medicare, and federal budget deficits shatters into little pieces. The unending trillion-dollar-plus federal budget deficits that we see discussed in newspapers - are themselves based upon ignoring what has actually been happening with employment since 2000, and instead projecting forward the healthy growth of a healthy economy, that in truth hasn't been healthy for a long time. Without that growth - taxes are much less than projected, deficits get much larger, and the crises with Social Security and Medicare get much worse, much faster.

The heart of the problem is that there are two different kinds of reductions in workforce participation rates - and they are on collision courses. One kind is the subject of this article, which is the statistical deception that is being committed to cover up the full extent of the still growing unemployment crisis among those aged 55 and younger.

The second kind of falling workforce participation is the fundamentals of demographics and what will become a dominant reality for the economy. The Boomers are aging, and by 2027, population projections are that there will only be two people in the 16-64 labor force for each person aged 65 or over. Leaving aside children, and going a level deeper than the facade of money-based projections, the true fundamental factor that governs everything is the ratio of two people producing resources for each one hopeful retiree consuming resources. (Over the long-term and for societies as a whole, money is only an easily manipulated symbol; goods and services are the reality that determine actual standards of living.)

Even with a robustly healthy economy and full employment - let me suggest that it has always been a very dicey proposition in terms of those two workers paying for their own family, the military and government infrastructure and other transfer payments, and then supporting one older person between them, while buying out massive sums of Boomer retirement account and pension investments at the highest prices in history with the money they have left over every year.

Indeed, in my opinion this has never been possible, and as I have been writing about for many years now, much of conventional retirement planning is based on a fairy tale which assumes fifty million Boomer investors can compound paper wealth together at a rate much faster than the growth in the real economy - and then somehow simultaneously cash this paper wealth out into real resources that don't exist.

But when we have a real economy that isn't experiencing healthy growth but is instead staggering, with imploding employment levels among younger workers - then there are two major implications which turn a building disaster among the young into a future disaster for the old. The first implication is that the gap between what has been promised and what is available must grow. The less real wealth that is produced by the actively working young, then the less wealth there is available for the old after retirement, whether we are talking about public transfers or private investments.

Politicians and financial firms can make all the soothing projections they want, but the fundamentals are that fewer jobs for the young mean greater eventual impoverishment for the old, and there is no getting around that.

The second implication is that the demographic financial crisis is brought forward in time. An average of four million Boomers will be reaching traditional retirement age each year. Meanwhile the job base among the young has been shrinking. The longer those two forces are occurring simultaneously, the faster the gap between expectations and reality grows, and the sooner the arrival of a crisis which could dwarf what we have seen to date.

This situation is a powerful incentive for older Americans to ramp up their savings and investment rate. Ironically however, the worst of the damage from employment statistics GIGO is not in the public sector, but can be found in the deception of private investors. Most of the value of the stock market is based upon expectations of future growth, which are being enabled by garbage statistics about what has actually been happening in the past and present. Remove the growth - and most of the current value of the markets goes with it, for when jobs implode, so do stock markets.

This can be seen very clearly by what happened to stocks the last time we had a major (albeit lesser) jobs crisis in this country. As covered in my article, "Deadly Dow 36,000 & The Secret History Of A 70% Market Loss", there are ample historical reasons to believe that the jobs crisis may create a stock market illusion, with apparent rising stock market indexes that mask investment values plunging in inflation-adjusted terms.

This is a national emergency, and what is needed more than anything else is full honesty about what is happening, and a nation pulling together to change what can be changed.

[--This and much more, including charts, is at:]

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The "Safety Net" Rips Off America's Poor

U.S. Life Expectancy Lower For Its Least Educated Citizens

By Sean Patterson, Webpronenews, September 21, 2012

New research has found that, while life expectancy for Americans is rising overall, those with less than a high school education lag far behind others with more education. This disparity is most pronounced when taking race into account.

"The most highly educated white men live about 14 years longer than the least educated black men," said S. Jay Olshansky, professor of epidemiology at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health and lead author of the study. "The least educated black women live about 10 years less than the most educated white women."

One of the most striking findings of the study, which was published last month in the journal Health Affairs, is that the life expectancy for white women with less than 12 years of education has actually fallen since 1990. Women with less than 12 years of education can now expect to live to age 73.5, where in 1990 that number was four years higher. White women with a college degree or more can expect to live to 83.9.

The reasons for this drop in life expectancy aren’t certain, but The New York Times’ report on the study [available through the link below which leads to a New York Times link] quotes researchers as stating that prescription drug overdoses, higher rates of smoking, obesity, and a lack of health insurance may be part of the cause.

The study looked at life expectancy by race, sex, and education from 1990 through 2008.

The results were profound. The life expectancy for white men with less than 12 years of education was also found to have dropped over that period, by around 3 years. White men with a college degree or better can expect to live to 80.4, while those who don’t graduate high school can only expect to live 67.5 years.

To put things in perspective, Olshansky pointed out that life expectancy for less-educated Americans is similar to that of Americans in the 50′s, 60′s, or 70′s. Less-educated black men have a life expectancy similar to the average in 1954, black women 1962, white women 1964, and white men 1972.

"It’s as if Americans with the least education are living in a time warp," said Olshansky. "There are essentially two Americas."

The researchers concluded that education and socioeconomic status are "extremely important" variables in determining life expectancy. As such, they suggest that lifelong education is important to closing the gap between how long poor and rich Americans live.

Olshansky can be heard speaking about his research below [by using the link below to go to an included video link], in a video provided by the University of Illinois at Chicago.

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Redistribution Itself Is Regressive and Punative
By the Blog Author

Many certified public accountants think differently than other people. As a CPA myself, I read through this
article with a perspective that is probably very different than yours, even if you are an economist or perhaps a master of public administration.

The article is telling us that those with less than a high school education are being ripped off by their employers and be Medicare and by Social Security. Those with less education, especially racial minorities with less than a high school education, will pay for social security and die before they receive benefits on the level of their more-educated citizens. They will die years and years earlier, in many cases at an age where they are barely eligible for Medicare.

Those without a high school education would lead richer lives, and by this I mean they would have more cash in their pockets throughout their adult lifespan, if they were exempt from Social Security and from Medicare – exempt from eligibility and exempt from the taxes.

Social Security and Medicare are oppressively regressive for those who have little formal education.  It's so obviously such a gross rip-off that it implies that these "safety nets" are so biased that they are worse than nothing; they are taxes on blue collar America to serve college-educated America. They are essentially illiberal programs that do nothing to extend the life or health of the working poor, but they pad the benefits of the well-educated. Morally, the nation would be better off sunsetting such an ugly theft that benefits one class at the expense of another.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Separation of Federal and State Military Power

Posse Comitatus Act

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
This article is about the Posse Comitatus Act in the United States.
The Posse Comitatus Act is the United States federal law (18 U.S.C. para 1385), original at 20 Stat. 152) that was passed on June 18, 1878, after the end of Reconstruction. Its intent (in concert with the Insurrection Act of 1807) was to limit the powers of local governments and law enforcement agencies in using federal military personnel to enforce the laws of the land. Contrary to popular belief, the Act does not prohibit members of the Army from exercising state law enforcement, police, or peace officer powers that maintain "law and order"; it simply requires that any authority to do so must exist with the United States Constitution or Act of Congress. In this way, most use of the Army and the Air Force at the direction of the President does not offend the statute, even though it may be problematic for political reasons.

The statute only addresses the US Army and, since 1956, the US Air Force. It does not refer to, and thus does not restrict or apply to, the National Guard under state authority from acting in a law enforcement capacity within its home state or in an adjacent state if invited by that state's governor (in its federal capacity, the National Guard forms part of the Army or Air Force of the United States). The Navy and Marine Corps are prohibited by a Department of Defense directive (self-regulation), but not by the Act itself.

Although it is a military force, the U.S. Coast Guard, which now operates under the Department of Homeland Security, is also not covered by the Posse Comitatus Act, primarily because the Coast Guard has both a maritime law enforcement mission and a federal regulatory agency mission.

The Act, § 15 of the appropriations bill for the Army for 1879, found at 20 Stat 152, was a response to, and subsequent prohibition of, the military occupation by U.S. Army troops of the former Confederate States during the ten years of Reconstruction (1867–1877) following the American Civil War (1861–1865).

The U.S. withdrew federal troops from Southern states as a result of a compromise in one of the most disputed national elections in American history, the 1876 U.S. presidential election. Samuel J. Tilden of New York, the Democratic candidate, defeated Republican candidate Rutherford B. Hayes of Ohio in the popular vote. Tilden garnered 184 electoral votes to Hayes' 165; 20 disputed electoral votes remained uncounted. After a bitter fight, Congress struck a deal resolving the dispute and awarding the presidency to Hayes.

In return for Southern acquiescence regarding Hayes, Republicans agreed to support the withdrawal of federal troops from the former Confederate states, ending Reconstruction. Known as the Compromise of 1877, this deal of political expediency removed federal protection for Southern ex-slaves. The U.S. Constitution places primary responsibility for the holding of elections in the hands of the individual states. The maintenance of peace, conduct of orderly elections, and prosecution of unlawful actions are all state responsibilities, pursuant of any state's role of exercising police power and maintaining law and order, whether part of a wider federation or a unitary state.

During the local, state, and federal elections of 1874 and 1876 in the former Confederate states, all levels of government chose not to exercise their police powers to maintain law and order. Many acts of violence, and a suppression of the vote of some political and racial groups, resulted in the election of state legislators and U.S. congressmen who halted and reversed political reform in the American South.

When the U.S. Representatives and Senators from the former Confederate states reached Washington, they set as a priority the creation of a statute prohibiting any future President or Congress from directing, by military order or federal legislation, the imposition of federal troops in any U.S. state.

An exception to Posse Comitatus Act derived from the Force Acts allowed President Eisenhower to send federal troops into Little Rock, Arkansas, during the 1958 school desegregation crisis. The Force Acts, among other powers, allow the President to call up military forces when state authorities are either unable or unwilling to suppress violence that is in opposition to the constitutional rights of the people.

The original Posse Comitatus Act referred essentially to the United States Army. The Air Force was added in 1956 and the Navy and the Marine Corps have been included by a regulation of the Department of Defense. The United States Coast Guard is not included in the Act. (The U.S. Coast Guard was originally part of the Treasury Department, was later part of the Department of Transportation, and is now within the Department of Homeland Security.) This law is often relied upon to prevent the Department of Defense from interfering in domestic law enforcement.

The original provision was enacted as Section 15 of chapter 263, of the Acts of the 2nd session of the 45th Congress.
Sec. 15. From and after the passage of this act it shall not be lawful to employ any part of the Army of the United States, as a posse comitatus, or otherwise, for the purpose of executing the laws, except in such cases and under such circumstances as such employment of said force may be expressly authorized by the Constitution or by act of Congress ; and no money appropriated by this act shall be used to pay any of the expenses incurred in the employment of any troops in violation of this section and any person willfully violating the provisions of this section shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor and on conviction thereof shall be punished by fine not exceeding ten thousand dollars or imprisonment not exceeding two years or by both such fine and imprisonment
The text of the relevant legislation is as follows:
18 U.S.C. para 1385. Use of Army and Air Force as posse comitatus
Whoever, except in cases and under circumstances expressly authorized by the Constitution or Act of Congress, willfully uses any part of the Army or the Air Force as a posse comitatus or otherwise to execute the laws shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both
Also notable is the following provision within Title 10 of the United States Code (which concerns generally the organization and regulation of the armed forces and Department of Defense):
10 U.S.C. para 375. Restriction on direct participation by military personnel
The Secretary of Defense shall prescribe such regulations as may be necessary to ensure that any activity (including the provision of any equipment or facility or the assignment or detail of any personnel) under this chapter does not include or permit direct participation by a member of the Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marine Corps in a search, seizure, arrest, or other similar activity unless participation in such activity by such member is otherwise authorized by law.

Recent Legislative Events
In 2006, the Congress modified the Insurrection Act as part of the 2007 Defense Authorization Bill (repealed as of 2008).

On September 26, 2006, President Bush urged Congress to consider revising federal laws so that U.S. armed forces could restore public order and enforce laws in the aftermath of a natural disaster, terrorist attack or incident, or other condition.

These changes were were included in the John Warner National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2007 (H.R. 5122), which was signed into law on October 17, 2006.

Section 1076 is titled "Use of the Armed Forces in major public emergencies." It provided that:
The President may employ the armed forces... to... restore public order and enforce the laws of the United States when, as a result of a natural disaster, epidemic, or other serious public health emergency, terrorist attack or incident, or other condition... the President determines that... domestic violence has occurred to such an extent that the constituted authorities of the State or possession are incapable of maintaining public order... or [to] suppress, in a State, any insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination, or conspiracy if such... a condition... so hinders the execution of the laws... that any part or class of its people is deprived of a right, privilege, immunity, or protection named in the Constitution and secured by law... or opposes or obstructs the execution of the laws of the United States or impedes the course of justice under those laws.
In 2008, these changes in the Insurrection Act of 1807 were repealed in their entirety, reverting to the previous wording of the Insurrection Act that in its original form was written to limit Presidential power as much as possible in the event of insurrection, rebellion, or lawlessness.

In 2012, U.S. President Barack Obama signed the 2012 Defense Authorization Act into law. Section 1031, clause "b", article 2 defines a 'covered person', i.e., someone possibly subject to martial law, as the following: "A person who was a part of or substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners, including any person who has committed a belligerent act or has directly supported such hostilities in aid of such enemy forces."

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Handel's Outdoor Orchestral Work

Handel’s Water Music and Royal Fireworks
 – the Soundtracks of the Age of Reason

The Water Music
is a collection of orchestral movements, often considered three suites, composed by George Frideric Handel. It premiered on 17 July 1717 after King George I had requested a concert on the River Thames. The concert was performed by 50 musicians playing on a barge near the royal barge from which the King listened with close friends, including Anne Vaughan, the Duchess of Bolton, the Duchess of Newcastle, Countess of Darlington, the Countess of Godolphin, Madam Kilmarnock, and the Earl of Orkney. The barges, heading forChelsea or Lambeth and leaving the party after midnight, used the tides of the river. George I was said to have enjoyed the suites so much that he made the exhausted musicians play them three times over the course of the outing.
Music and instrumentation

The instrumentation varies depending on the movement, but the requirements in a complete performance are a flute, two oboes, one bassoon, two horns, two trumpets, strings and continuo: this instrumentation is effective in outdoor performance. (Some of the music is also preserved in a contemporary score written for a smaller orchestra: this version is not suitable for outdoor performance, as the sound of stringed instruments does not carry well in the open air).

Legend has it that Handel composed Water Music to regain the favour of King George I. Handel had been employed by the future king before he succeeded to the British throne when he was Elector of Hanover. The composer supposedly fell out of favour for moving to London in the reign of Queen Anne. This story was first related by Handel's early biographer John Mainwaring; although it may have some foundation in fact, the tale as told by Mainwaring has been doubted by some Handel scholars.

Another legend has it that the Elector of Hanover approved of Handel's permanent move to London, knowing the separation between them would be temporary. Both were allegedly aware the Elector of Hanover would eventually succeed to the British throne after Queen Anne's death.

Popular culture and the media

Many portions of Water Music have become familiar. Between 1959 and 1988 a Water Music movement was used for the ident of Anglia Television. The D major movement in 3/2 meter subtitled "Alla Hornpipe" is particularly notable and has been used frequently for television and radio commercials, including commercials for the privatisation of the UK water companies in the late 1980s. The "Air" and "Bourrée" from the F major "suite" have also become popular with audiences, with the latter being the theme music to the popular PBS cooking show The Frugal Gourmet.

Disney World
features Water Music as the background music for a parade of sea creatures lit up with electric lights off the coast of the Magic Kingdom.

Allegro in D was used in an inspirational scene from the 1989 movie Dead Poets Society, starring Robin Williams and Ethan Hawke.
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The Music for the Royal Fireworks (HWV 351) is a wind band suite composed by George Frideric Handel in 1749 under contract of George II of Great Britain for the fireworks in London’s Green Park on 27 April 1749. It was to celebrate the end of the War of the Austrian Succession and the signing of the Treaty of Aiz-la-Chapelle in 1748.

The performing musicians were in a specially constructed building that had been designed by Servandoni, a theatre designer. The music provided a background for the royal fireworks that were designed by Thomas Desguliers, son of the cleric and scientist John Theophilus Desaguliers. However, the display was not as successful as the music itself: the enormous wooden building caught fire after the collapse of a bas relief of George II. However, the music had been performed publicly six days earlier, on 21 April 1749 when there was a full rehearsal of the music at Vauxhall Gardens. Over twelve thousand people, each paying 2/6, rushed for it, causing a three-hour traffic jam of carriages after the main route to the area south of the river was closed due to the collapse of the central arch of newly built London Bridge.

When published, Handel wished to present the work as an overture, but the Crown had it given the title "Music for the Royal Fireworks" as propaganda in favour of an otherwise unpopular Treaty and monarch.

There are many recordings. Handel's "Water Music," although it was composed more than thirty years earlier, is often paired with the "Music for the Royal Fireworks" as both were written for outdoor performance. Together, these works constitute Handel's most famous music for what we would now consider the orchestra. Older recordings tend to use arrangements of Handel's score for the modern orchestra, for example the arrangements by Hamilton Harty and Leopold Stokowski. More recent recordings tend to use more historically informed performance methods appropriate for baroque music and often use authentic instruments.

There are also several arrangements for pipe organ, alone or with brass.

This music was performed for the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II on June 1, 2002, at the Buckingham Palace gardens, complete with fireworks of course.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Positive Quiddity: Argumentation

Argumentation theory, or argumentation, is the interdisciplinary study of how conclusions can be reached through logical reasoning; that is, claims based, soundly or not, on premises. It includes the arts and sciences of civil debate, dialogue, conversation, and persuasion. It studies rules of inference, logic, and procedural rules in both artificial and real world settings.

Argumentation includes debate and negotiation, which are concerned with reaching mutually acceptable conclusions. It also encompasses eristic dialog, the branch of social debate in which victory over an opponent is the primary goal. This art and science is often the means by which people protect their beliefs or self-interests in rational dialogue, in common parlance, and during the process of arguing.
Argumentation is used in law, for example in trials, in preparing an argument to be presented to a court, and in testing the validity of certain kinds of evidence. Also, argumentation scholars study the post hoc rationalizations by which organizational actors try to justify decisions they have made irrationally.

Key components of argumentation

  • Understanding and identifying arguments, either explicit or implied, and the goals of the participants in the different types of dialogue.
  • Identifying the premises from which conclusions are derived
  • Establishing the "burden of proof" -- determining who made the initial claim and is thus responsible for providing evidence why his/her position merits acceptance
  • For the one carrying the "burden of proof", the advocate, to marshal evidence for his/her position in order to convince or force the opponent's acceptance. The method by which this is accomplished is producing valid, sound, and cogent arguments, devoid of weaknesses, and not easily attacked.
  • In a debate, fulfillment of the burden of proof creates a burden of rejoinder. One must try to identify faulty reasoning in the opponent's argument, to attack the reasons/premises of the argument, to provide counterexamples if possible, to identify any logical fallacies, and to show why a valid conclusion cannot be derived from the reasons provided for his/her argument.
Internal structure of arguments

Typically an argument has an internal structure, comprising the following
  1. a set of assumptions or premises
  2. a method of reasoning or deduction and
  3. a conclusion or point.

  4. An argument must have at least one premise and one conclusion.

    Often classical logic is used as the method of reasoning so that the conclusion follows logically from the assumptions or support. One challenge is that if the set of assumptions is inconsistent then anything can follow logically from inconsistency. Therefore it is common to insist that the set of assumptions be consistent. It is also good practice to require the set of assumptions to be the minimal set, with respect to set inclusion, necessary to infer the consequent. Such arguments are called MINCON arguments, short for minimal consistent. Such argumentation has been applied to the fields of law and medicine. A second school of argumentation investigates abstract arguments, where 'argument' is considered a primitive term, so no internal structure of arguments is taken on account.

    In its most common form, argumentation involves an individual and an interlocutor/or opponent engaged in dialogue, each contending differing positions and trying to persuade each other. Other types of dialogue in addition to persuasion are eristic, information seeking, inquiry, negotiation, deliberation, and the dialectical method (Douglas Walton). The dialectical method was made famous by Plato and his use of Socrates critically questioning various characters and historical figures.
    Kinds of Argumentation

    Conversational Argumentation
    Mathematical Argumentation
    Scientific Argumentation
    Legal Argumentation
    Political Argumentation
Components of argument
    In The Uses of Argument (1958), Toulmin proposed a layout containing six interrelated components for analyzing arguments:
    1. Claim: Conclusions whose merit must be established. For example, if a person tries to convince a listener that he is a British citizen, the claim would be "I am a British citizen." (1)
    2. Data: The facts we appeal to as a foundation for the claim. For example, the person introduced in 1 can support his claim with the supporting data "I was born in Bermuda." (2)
    3. Warrant: The statement authorizing our movement from the data to the claim. In order to move from the data established in 2, "I was born in Bermuda," to the claim in 1, "I am a British citizen," the person must supply a warrant to bridge the gap between 1 & 2 with the statement "A man born in Bermuda will legally be a British Citizen." (3)
    4. Backing: Credentials designed to certify the statement expressed in the warrant; backing must be introduced when the warrant itself is not convincing enough to the readers or the listeners. For example, if the listener does not deem the warrant in 3 as credible, the speaker will supply the legal provisions as backing statement to show that it is true that "A man born in Bermuda will legally be a British Citizen."
    5. Rebuttal: Statements recognizing the restrictions to which the claim may legitimately be applied. The rebuttal is exemplified as follows, "A man born in Bermuda will legally be a British citizen, unless he has betrayed Britain and has become a spy of another country."
    6. Qualifier: Words or phrases expressing the speaker's degree of force or certainty concerning the claim. Such words or phrases include "possible," "probably," "impossible," "certainly," "presumably," "as far as the evidence goes," or "necessarily." The claim "I am definitely a British citizen" has a greater degree of force than the claim "I am a British citizen, presumably."
The first three elements "claim," "data," and "warrant" are considered as the essential components of practical arguments, while the second triad "qualifier," "backing," and "rebuttal" may not be needed in some arguments.

When first proposed, this layout of argumentation is based on legal arguments and intended to be used to analyze the rationality of arguments typically found in the courtroom; in fact, Toulmin did not realize that this layout would be applicable to the field of rhetoric and communication until his works were introduced to rhetoricians by Wayne Brockriede and Douglas Ehninger. Only after he published Introduction to Reasoning (1979) were the rhetorical applications of this layout mentioned in his works.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Positive Quiddity: Epoxy

Epoxy, also known as polyepoxide, is a thermosetting polymer formed from reaction of an epoxide "resin" with polyamine "hardener". Epoxy has a wide range of applications, including fiber-reinforced plastic materials and general purpose adhesives.

Epoxy is a copolymer, that is, it is formed from two different chemicals. These are referred to as the "resin" or "compound" and the "hardener" or "activator". The resin consists of monomers or short chain polymers with an epoxide group at either end. Most common epoxy resins are produced from a reaction between epichlorohydrin and bisphenol-A, though the latter may be replaced by similar chemicals. The hardener consists of polyamine monomers, for example triethylenetetramine (TETA). When these compounds are mixed, the amine groups react with the epoxide groups to form a covalent bond. Each NH group can react with an epoxide group from distinct prepolymer molecules, so that the resulting polymer is heavily crosslinked, and is thus rigid and strong.

The process of polymerization is called "curing", and can be controlled through temperature, choice of resin and hardener compounds, and the ratio of said compounds; the process can take minutes to hours. Some formulations benefit from heating during the cure period, whereas others simply require time and ambient temperatures.


The first commercial attempts to prepare resins from epichlorohydrin were made in 1927 in the United States. Credit for the first synthesis of bisphenol-A-based epoxy resins is shared by Dr. Pierre Castan of Switzerland and Dr. S.O. Greenlee of the United States in 1936. Dr. Castan's work was licensed by Ciba, Ltd. of Switzerland, which went on to become one of the three major epoxy resin producers worldwide. Ciba's epoxy business was spun off and later sold in the late 1990s and is now the advanced materials business unit ogf Huntsman Corporation of the United States. Dr. Greenlee's work was for the firm of Devoe-Reynolds of the United States. Devoe-Reynolds, which was active in the early days of the epoxy resin industry, was sold to Shell Chemical (now Momentive Specialty Chemicals, formerly Hexion, Resolution Polymers and others).’


The applications for epoxy-based materials are extensive and include coatings, adhesives and composite materials such as those using carbon fiber and fiberglass reinforcements (although polyester, vinyl ester, and other thermosetting resins are also used for glass-reinforced plastic). The chemistry of epoxies and the range of commercially available variations allows cure polymers to be produced with a very broad range of properties. In general, epoxies are known for their excellent adhesion, chemical and heat resistance, good-to-excellent mechanical properties and very good electrival insulating properties. Many properties of epoxies can be modified (for example silver-filled epoxies with good electrical conductivity are available, although epoxies are typically electrically insulating). Variations offering high thermal insulation, or thermal conductivity combined with high electrical resistance for electronics applications, are available.

Epoxy is used in paintings and coatings, adhesives, industrial tooling and composites, electrical systems and electronics, consumer and marine applications, aerospace applications, biology (especially in preparing samples for an electron microscope) and in art.

Health risks

The primary risk associated with epoxy use is sensitization to the hardener, which, over time, can induce an allergic reaction. Allergic reaction sometimes occurs at a time which is delayed several days from the exposure. Epoxy use is a main source of occupational asthma among users of plastics. Bisdphenol A, which is used in epoxy resin, is a known endocrine disrupter.


Monday, September 17, 2012

Go See 'The Hope and The Change'

'The Hope and The Change' Movie to Air on Broadcast, Cable TV

By Tony Lee,, September 17, 2012

"The Hope and the Change," the movie about Democrats and independents who voted for President Barack Obama in 2008 and will not do so in 2012, will air on a dozen television stations this fall leading up to the presidential election, Citizens United announced on Monday.

Citizens United produced the film and has struck a deal to begin airing the movie on six broadcast stations and six cable stations beginning Tuesday on HDNet and through November’s presidential election. It will reach 130 million households and air on broadcast stations in Indiana, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Hawaii, and Colorado. The movie will air on cable channels such as FamilyNet, Rural TV, and HDNet movies.

Sean Hannity said "The Hope and the Change" was the "most powerful documentary" he had "ever seen," and the movie could only be produced because of the Supreme Court decision that did not place limits on political speech.

"It is important to note that these distribution opportunities would have been against the law a mere three years ago. This is why I went to the United States Supreme Court – to fight for the right to produce a political documentary," said Producer David N. Bossie.

"’The Hope and the Change’ exposes the hard truth that many Democrats and independents are suffering at the hands of President Obama’s failed policies, and we will aggressively market this film so Americans can finally have an unfiltered conversation they deserve."

Stephen K. Bannon, who directed the film, said "the ability to reach 130 million American cumulative households with this historic deal is astonishing."

"The power of the film comes from the collective unscripted and unrehearsed voices of the participants - ordinary Americans from every walk of life - who broke through the white noise of political speak," Bannon said.

Pat Caddell, the former Jimmy Carter adviser who helped conduct the film’s focus groups of Reagan
Democrats from swing states like Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Colorado, said "this documentary gives real voice to ordinary Americans, Democrats and independents, who are, until now, unheard and ignored by the political class and mainstream media."

"The power of these 2008 Obama voters comes from the fact that they were unscripted and spoke from their hearts,"
Caddell said.

The movie is one of the most powerful weapons of the 2012 election cycle for its unfiltered portrayal of the disaffected voters who voted for Obama who feel betrayed by his false promises and lofty rhetoric.

The mainstream media knows how powerfully the movie resonates with voters who will decide the election in swing states like Ohio and Florida, and that is why they are not giving the movie any publicity. The mainstream press has also avoided interviewing and profiling the types of disaffected Reagan Democrats "The Hope and the Change" profiled.

With the broadcast and cable television deal, "The Hope and the Change" has an opportunity to go over the heads of the traditional, legacy media and into the homes of some of the most important swing voters in this election.

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Note from the Blog Author

I have seen clips and short pieces from this documentary. This is a gripping, electrifying documentary about the hollowing out of the American middle class. Don’t miss it.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Limitations of Models in Science

By John Brennan, eHow Contributor

A model is a description of natural phenomenon that scientists can use to make predictions. A good model is both as accurate as possible and as simple as possible, which makes it not only powerful but also easy to understand. No matter how good they are, models will almost always have limitations.


Most models can't incorporate all the details of complex natural phenomena. For example, when measuring distances around the Earth it's convenient to model the Earth as a sphere, but this doesn't incorporate variations in distance because of mountain ranges, valleys and other topological features the traveler must traverse. Incorporating these additional details would make the model too complex for easy use. Since models must be simple enough that you can use them to make predictions, they often leave out some of the details.


Most models include some approximations as a convenient way to describe something that happens in nature. These approximations are not exact, so predictions based on them tend to be a little bit different from what you actually observe -- close, but not bang on. In quantum mechanics, for example, there are no exact solutions to the Schrodinger equation for atoms from helium onward; exact solutions exist only for hydrogen. Consequently, physicists use approximations for higher elements. These approximations are good, but they are approximations nonetheless.


Sometimes a model can be made more accurate but at the expense of simplicity. In cases like these, the simpler model may actually be superior, because it gives you a way to visualize a process so you can understand it and make predictions about it. In chemistry, for example, structural formulas and ball-and-stick models are unrealistic depictions of molecules; they completely ignore what chemists know from quantum mechanics about the nature of matter at the subatomic level. Nonetheless, they are simple, easy to draw and offer a wealth of insights into molecular structure and properties in a way that's easy to visualize and understand. Consequently, chemists continue to use both structural formulas and ball-and-stick models.


Ultimately, models are subject to some trade-offs. You want as much predictive power as possible. At the same time, you also want the model to be as simple as possible. Nature is indifferent to the human need for simplicity and ease of comprehension, however, and many natural phenomena are complex. Just think, for example, about the chain of biochemical processes that take place merely in order to relay information from the photoreceptors in your eye to the visual cortex of your brain. If you try to incorporate everything that actually happens into a model, it becomes unwieldy and difficult to use. In the end you find that you rely to some degree on approximations and conceptual frameworks that make a process easy to visualize but don't necessarily reflect the true nature of reality.


Annenberg Learner: A Closer Look, Scientific Models

Museum of Science, Boston: Making Models

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link for this blog post:

Saturday, September 15, 2012


Simultaneity is the property of two events happening at the same time in at least one frame of reference. The word derives from the Latin simul, at the same time (see sem-1 in Indo-European Roots) plus the suffix -taneous, abstracted from spontaneous (which in turn comes directly from Latin).
The noun simult means a supernatural coincidence, two or more divinely inspired events that occuf at or near the same period of time that are related to each other in both noticeable and unnoticeable characteristics.
  • In econonometrcs, it arises when one or more of the explanatory variables is jointly determined with the dependent variable, typically through an equilibrium mechanism.
  • In criminal law, for a criminal violation to be established, it usually must be shown that there was simultaneity of actus reus and mens rea.
  • In mathematics, a system of equations or a set of simultaneous equations share variables; a solution is a set of variable values for which all these equations are satisfied together.
  • In music, see Simultaneity (music) in Wikipedia.
  • In physics, see Relativity of simultaneity (below).
  • In marketing, simultaneity is one of the characteristics of a service which differentiates it from a product. It refers to the idea that the production and consumption of a service occur simultaneously, making it impossible to produce and store a service prior to consumption.

Relativity of simultaneity

Event B is simultaneous with A in the green reference frame, but it occurred before in the blue frame, and will occur later in the red frame.

A, B, and C occur in different order depending on the motion of the observer. The white line represents a plane of simultaneity being moved from the past to the future.

In physics, the relativity of simultaneity is the concept that simultaneity–whether two events occur at the same time–is not absolute, but depends on the observer’s reference frame.

According to the special theory of relativity, it is impossible to say in an absolute sense whether two distinct events, occur at the same time if those events are separated in space, such as a car crash in London and another in New York. The question of whether the events are simultaneous is relative: in some reference frames the two accidents may happen at the same time, in other frames (in a different state of motion relative to the events) the crash in London may occur first, and in still other frames the New York crash may occur first. If the two events are causally connected ("event A causes event B"), then the relativity of simultaneity preserves the causal order (i.e. "event A causes event B" in all frames of reference).

If we imagine one reference frame assigns precisely the same time to two events that are at different points in space, a reference frame that is moving relative to the first will generally assign different times to the two events. This is illustrated in the ladder paradox, a thought experiment which uses the example of a ladder moving at high speed through a garage.

A mathematical form of the relativity of simultaneity ("local time") was introduced by Hendrik Lorentz in 1892, and physically interpreted (to first order in v/c) as the result of a synchronization using light signals by Henri Poincare in 1900. However, both Lorentz and Poincaré based their conceptions on the aether as a preferred but undetectable frame of reference, and continued to distinguish between "true time" (in the aether) and "apparent" times for moving observers. It was Albert Einstein in 1905 who abandoned the (classical) aether and emphasized the significance of relativity of simultaneity to our understanding of space and time. He deduced the failure of absolute simultaneity from two stated assumptions:
  • the principle of relativity -- the equivalence of inertial frames, such that the laws of physics apply equally in all inertial coordinate systems;
  • the constancy of the speed of light detected in empty space, independent of the relative motion of its source.
In 1892 and 1895, Hendrik Lorentz used a mathematical tool called "local time" t' = t – v x/c2 for explaining the negative aether drift experiments. However, Lorentz gave no physical explanation of this effect. This was done by Henri Poincare who already in 1898 emphasized the conventional nature of simultaneity and who argued that it is convenient to postulate the constancy of the speed of light in all directions. However, this paper does not contain any discussion of Lorentz's theory or the possible difference in defining simultaneity for observers in different states of motion. This was done in 1900, when he derived local time by assuming that within the aether the speed of light is invariant. Due to the "Principle of relative motion" also moving observers within the aether assume that they are at rest and that the speed of light is constant in all directions (only to first order in v/c). So if they synchronize their clocks by using light signals, they will only consider the transit time for the signals, but not their motion in respect to the aether. So the moving clocks are not synchronous and do not indicate the "true" time. Poincaré calculated that this synchronization error corresponds to Lorentz's local time. Also in 1904 Poincaré emphasized the connection between the principle of relativity, "local time", and light speed invariance, however, the reasoning in that paper was presented in a qualitative and conjectural manner.

Albert Einstein 1905 used a similar method to derive the time transformation for all orders in v/c, i.e. the complete Lorentz transformation (also Poincaré got the full transformation in 1905 but in those papers he did not mention his synchronization procedure). This derivation was completely based on light speed invariance and the relativity principle, so Einstein noted that for the electrodynamics of moving bodies the aether is superfluous. Thus the separation into "true" and "local" times of Lorentz and Poincaré vanishes–all times are equally valid and therefore the relativity of length and time is a natural consequence. In 1908 Herman Minkowski used a quadratic form to present a primitive model of spacetime near a given event taken as the origin of a four-dimensional coordinate system. This model displays relativity of simultaneity through the concept of a simultaneous hyperplane that depends on the velocity of the traveler through the event.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Cattle Rustling

Cattle raiding is the act of stealing cattle.

In Australia, such stealing is often referred to as duffing, and the person as a duffer. In North America, especially in cowboy culture, cattle theft is dubbed rustling and an individual who engages in it is a rustler.

Historically, the act of cattle rustling is quite ancient, with the first suspected raids conducted over seven thousand years ago.

Cattle raids play an important part in Indo-European mythology, see for example Tain Bo Cuailinge (Irish), the Rigvedic Panis (India), and the Homeric Hymn to Hermes, who steals the cattle of Apollo (Greece).

These myths are often paired with myths of the abduction of women (compare Helen, Sita, Saranyu, The Rape of the Sabine Women). Abduction of women and theft of livestock were practiced in many of the world's preurbanized cultures, the former likely reaching back to the Paleolithic, and the latter to the earliest domestication of animals in the Neolithic.

American Old West
In the American Old West, rustling was considered a serious offense, and it did frequently result in lynching by vigilantes.

Mexican rustlers were a major issue during the American Civil War, with the Mexican government being accused of supporting the habit, as it was for the American rustlers stealing Mexican cattle from across the border. Failure to brand new calves facilitated theft.

Conflict over alleged rustling was a major issue in the Johnson County War in the U.S. state of Wyoming.

The transition from open range to fenced grazing gradually reduced the practice of rustling in North America. In the 20th century, so called 'suburban rustling' became more common, with rustlers anesthetizing cattle and taking them directly to auction. It often takes place at night, posing problems for law enforcement because on very large ranches it can take several days for loss of cattle to be noticed and reported. Convictions are rare to nonexistent.

Cattle raiding became a major issue at the end of the 19th century in Argentina, where cattle stolen during malones were taken through Rastrillada de los chilenos across the Andes to Chile, where they were exchanged for alcoholic beverages and weapons. Several indigenous groups, and outlaws such as the Boroanos and Ranqueles tribes and the Pincheira brothers, ravaged the southern frontier of Argentina in search of cattle. To prevent the cattle raiding, the Argentine government built a system of trenches called Zanja de Alsina in the 1870s. Most cattle raids ended after the military campaigns of the Conquest of the Desert, and the following partition of Patagonia by Chile and Argentina established by the 1881 Border Treaty.

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Notes by the Blog Author

American ranchers can and do purchase insurance against losses from cattle rustling. However, most such insurance includes a "mysterious disappearance" clause. The mysterious disappearance clause denies loss by theft unless the rancher observes the cattle being stolen. When the rancher is not an eyewitness, then the loss of the cattle is regarded as mysterious, and such claims are denied by the insurer.

There is a very thorough and ironic analysis of American cattle rustling in the amusing, mid-seventies movie Rancho Deluxe. It is still worth seeing.

It has been falsely assumed that cattle rustling is an extinct crime that no longer takes place. However, rustling seems to be slowly increasing in frequency, especially when the American economy is stagnant or in recession.

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Rustlers kill cattle overloading trailer

By Drovers CattleNetwork News Source -- February 18, 2011

KFOR Channel 4 reports 14 stolen cattle were returned to an Oklahoma rancher, but a few died when thieves, who are still on the loose, loaded the trailer too tightly.

Thieves abandoned the trailer after getting a flat tire. The Garvin County Sheriff’s department and Department of Agriculture found the trailer containing 16 cattle Thursday evening.

Rustlers stacked animals on top of each other and loaded the cattle so tightly that four had their front legs sticking out of the sides of the trailer. Two cattle died under the packed conditions.

The brands on the animals had already been altered but investigators we able to track down the owner.

The suspects are identified as two white men and a white woman driving a late-model black Dodge truck. They face charges of animal cruelty and theft.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Dalai Lama: Religion Needs Science

Dalai Lama tells his Facebook friends that religion "is no longer adequate"
By George Dvorsky,,
Dalai Lama tells his Facebook friends that religion isnolongeradequate

This past Monday, people who have the Dalai Lama as a Facebook friend found this little gem in their newsfeed.
All the world's major religions, with their emphasis on love, compassion, patience, tolerance, and forgiveness can and do promote inner values. But the reality of the world today is that grounding ethics in religion is no longer adequate. This is why I am increasingly convinced that the time has come to find a way of thinking about spirituality and ethics beyond religion altogether.
The Dalai Lama's advice sounds startling familiar — one that echos the sentiment put forth by outspoken atheist Sam Harris who argues that science can answer moral questions. The Dalai Lama is no stranger to scientific discourse, and has developed a great fascination with neuroscience in particular. It's very possible, therefore, that his thinking has aligned with Harris.

In a recent interview with the Globe and Mail, Harris had this to say about science and how it should be used to inform our moral and ethical sensibilities:
The moment we admit that questions of right and wrong, and good and evil, are actually questions about human and animal well-being, we see that science can, in principle, answer such questions. Human experience depends on everything that can influence states of the human brain, ranging from changes in our genome to changes in the global economy. The relevant details of genetics, neurobiology, psychology, sociology, economics etc. are fantastically complicated, but these are domains of facts, and they fall squarely within the purview of science.
We should reserve the notion of "morality" for the ways in which we can affect one another's experience for better or worse. Some people use the term "morality" differently, of course, but I think we have a scientific responsibility to focus the conversation so as to make it most useful. We define terms like "medicine," "causation," "law" and "theory" very much to the detriment of homeopathy, astrology, voodoo, Christian Science and other branches of human ignorance, and there is no question that we enjoy the same freedom when speaking about concepts like "right" and "wrong," and "good" and "evil." Once we acknowledge that "morality" relates to questions of human and animal well-being, then there is no reason to doubt that a prescriptive (rather than merely descriptive) science of morality is possible. After all, there are principles of biology, psychology, sociology and economics that will allow us to flourish in this world, and it is clearly possible for us not to flourish due to ignorance of these principles.
It's important to remember that Tibetan Buddhists, while rejecting belief in God and the soul, still cling to various metaphysical beliefs, including karma, infinite rebirths, and reincarnation. But interestingly, the Dalai Lama once had this to say on the subject:
My confidence in venturing into science lies in my basic belief that as in science so in Buddhism, understanding the nature of reality is pursued by means of critical investigation: if scientific analysis were conclusively to demonstrate certain claims in Buddhism to be false, then we must accept the findings of science and abandon those claims.
Other Buddhists, however, such as Stephen Batchelor, argue that Buddhism should be stripped of all its metaphysical baggage and simplified down to its basic philosophical and existential tenets — a suggestion that has given rise to secular Buddhism.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Stone of Scone

The Stone of Scone [Scone pronounced as if it rhymed with spoon or dune] , also known as the Stone of Destiny and often referred to in England as The Coronation Stone, is an oblong block of red sandstone, used for centuries in the coronation of the monarchs of Scotland and later the monarchs of England, Great Britain and the United Kingdom. Historically, the artifact was kept at the now-ruined Scone Abbey in Scone, near Perth, Scotland. It is also known as Jacob’s Pillow Stone and the Tanist Stone, and in Scottish Gaelic clach-na-cinneamhain. Its size is about 26 inches (660 mm) by 16.75 inches (425 mm) by 10.5 inches (270 mm) and its weight is approximately 336 pounds (152 kg). The top bears chisel-marks. At each end of the stone is an iron ring, apparently intended to make transport easier.

Westminster Abbey

In 1296 the Stone was captured by Edward I as spoils of war. and taken to Westminster Abbey, where it was fitted into a wooden chair, known as King Edward’s Chair, on which most subsequent English sovereigns have been crowned. Doubtless by this he intended to symbolize his claim to be "Lord Paramount" of Scotland with right to oversee its King.

Some doubt exists over the stone captured by Edward I. TheWestminster Stone theory posits that the monks at Scone Palace hid the real stone in the River Tay or buried it on Dunsinane Hill, and that the English troops were fooled into taking a substitute. Some proponents of the theory claim that historic descriptions of the stone do not match the present stone. If the monks did hide the stone, they hid it well; no other stone fitting its description has ever been found.

In The Treaty of Northampton 1328, between the Kingdom of Scotland and the Kingdom of England, England agreed to return the captured Stone to Scotland. However, riotous crowds prevented it from being removed from Westminster Abbey. It was to remain in England for another six centuries. In the course of time James VI of Scotland came to the English throne as James I of England but the stone remained in London; for the next century, the Stuart Kings and Queens of Scotland once again sat on the stone — but at their coronation as Kings and Queens of England and Scotland.

                       The Stone of Scone under the Coronation Chair, about 1855  

Removal and damage

On Christmas Day 1950, a group of four Scottish students (Ian Hamilton, Gavin Vernon, Kay Matheson, and Alan Stuart) took the Stone from Westminster Abbey for return to Scotland. In the process of removing it from the Abbey the stone broke into two pieces. After hiding the greater part of the stone with travellers in Kent for a few days, they risked the road blocks on the border and returned to Scotland with this piece, which they had hidden in the back of a borrowed car, along with a new accomplice John Josselyn. Although an Englishman, Josselyn, then a student at Glasgow University, was a Scottish Nationalist. And rather ironically and probably unknown to him at the time, Edward I (who captured the Stone in 1296 and took it to Westminster Abbey) was his 21st great grandfather. The smaller piece was similarly brought north a little while later. This journey involved a break in Leeds, where a group of sympathetic students and graduates took the fragment to Ilkley Moor for an overnight stay, accompanied by renditions of "On Ilka Moor Baht ‘at. The Stone was then passed to a senior Glasgow politician who arranged for it to be professionally repaired by Glasgow stonemason Robert Gray.

A major search for the stone had been ordered by the British Government, but this proved unsuccessful. Perhaps assuming that the Church would not return it to England, the stone's custodians left it on the altar of Arbroath Abbey, on 11 April 1951, in the safekeeping of the Church of Scotland. Once the London police were informed of its whereabouts, the Stone was returned to Westminster. Afterwards, rumours circulated that copies had been made of the Stone, and that the returned Stone was not in fact the original.

Return to Scotland

In 1996, in a symbolic response to growing dissatisfaction among Scots at the prevailing constitutional settlement, the British Conservative Government decided that the Stone should be kept in Scotland when not in use at coronations. On 3 July 1996 it was announced in the House of Commons that the Stone would be returned to Scotland, and on 15 November 1996, after a handover ceremony at the border between representatives of the Home Office and of the Scottish Office, it was transported to Edinburgh Castle, arriving on 30 November 1996, where it remains along with the crown jewels of Scotland (the Honours of Scotland) in the Crown Room. The handover was done on St. Andrew’s Day (patron Saint of Scotland); the Queen sent as her representative Prince Andrew. Provision has been made to transport the stone to Westminster Abbey when it is required there for future coronation ceremonies.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

What Venture Investors Look For

Y. Combinator is the name of a venture investor firm looking for startups. It was covered in the October 2012 Vanity Fair business section in an article by Randall Stross. Paul Graham is head of Y Combinator, where Trevor Blackwill and Jessica Livingston are also founders.

The article infers that high tech start-ups tend to involve young adults in their twenties with advanced degrees but not yet homeowners nor parents with well-paying jobs. What Paul Graham of Y Combinator wants to see is a team that works well, since that is necessary to manage the stresses of starting something up. That teamwork means that no single member overwhelms the others. The members accommodate each other. Y.C. doesn’t want to fund "hackers in a cage," where a non-technical founder controls the organization and treats the technical experts as subordinates.

Graham tells the start-ups he may be funding that they will not be closely supervised. He won’t tell them when they are doing poorly. "Here, we don’t fire you. The market fires you," he tells start-ups applying for Y.C. funds. Graham says the most successful start-ups utterly eliminate distractions. "They just sleep, eat, exercise, and program," he says. The details of the start-up product as pitched to Y.C. are not the most important factor in funding them or passing them by, Graham tells Vanity Fair. The energy level, teamwork, the mutual accommodation, the ability to eliminate distractions are the important factors in deciding whom to back financially.

Graham has a formula for generating new ideas – use the start-up founders as target users. Build something the founders can build but few others can do. And select something that few people realize is a big deal. "Ask yourself: ‘What do I wish someone would start a start-up to do for me?’" Graham posits. "The next best thing: something for someone else that you know is a problem." Another question he suggests start-up founders should ask themselves: "What will people say in the future was an unmet need today?" And Graham gives as an example the time it takes for a computer to boot up – a delay of wasted time that will surely look ridiculous in the near future.

Graham suggests that when giving a presentation, a start-up founder must choose the part that is most animated. The presenter should not allow animation to happen spontaneously and without management while plodding through a presentation.

Graham further suggests that presenters be wary about statistics and avoid using nationwide universal numbers and macro-economic numbers.

Y Combinator interviews start-ups, selects and funds the approved groups for three months, and then hosts a live demonstration day for the remaining groups (63 groups demonstrated for the most recent year). The day is followed by a reception where the group founders can meet with potential investors. "It’s hard to say exactly what it is about face-to-face contact that makes deals happen," Graham observed a few years ago, "but whatever it is, it hasn’t yet been duplicated by technology."

If a start-up succeeds and becomes a smash success, then Y Combinator strongly recommends that it sell to a large tech firm, take its profits, and let Y.C. take its share as well.

Summarized from:

Monday, September 10, 2012

Some Bad Environmentalism

By Robert Tracinski

September 10, 2012 -- I was at the grocery store the other day when I noticed that Domino is now advertising its five-pound bags of sugar as "certified carbon-free."

This is the sort of thing that requires photographic evidence, so here it is.

It’s been a few years since I’ve been in a chemistry class, but at least I have been in a chemistry class once, so I knew there was something deeply wrong with this advertisement. I pulled out my smartphone and refreshed my memory on the chemical formula for sugar: C6H12O6. In case it’s been even longer since you’ve been in a chemistry class, the "C" stands for "carbon." So carbon is one of the basic natural atomic components of sugar, which is no more "carbon-free" than a charcoal briquette.

I know that what they mean by "carbon-free" is that the sugar was produced in a way that does not create industrial emissions of carbon dioxide and therefore—according to the claims of environmentalists—does not contribute to man-made global warming. At least, they claim that their operation is "carbon neutral," which means that they probably do emit carbon dioxide but they buy some kind of dubious "offset" to "greenwash" their operation.

But what struck me is that no one on the staff of a company that makes sugar was aware that it contains carbon, or at least no one thought that any member of the public would be aware of it. No one thought that they might be setting themselves up for ridicule by trying to sell us "carbon-free" C6H12O6. And that is symptomatic of how environmental dogmas are sold to the public.

For all of their bluster about how environmentalists have science on their side, they frequently appeal to a total ignorance of science in the minds of their audience.

In this case, the "carbon-free" pitch is part of a larger shift I’ve seen over the past ten years. Somewhere along the line, some PR flack for the global warmists figured out that to the scientifically ignorant, "carbon" sounds scary. It sounds dirty, it sounds toxic, it sounds unsafe. So the environmentalists all stopped referring to "carbon dioxide" and just started saying "carbon." That’s how we get the terms "carbon footprint," "carbon-free," "carbon neutral." I even remember seeing the New York Times refer to carbon dioxide as emissions of "carbon gas." Run for your lives, everyone, it’s carbon gas!

"Carbon-free" is a turn of phrase that is closely related to "chemical-free." Of course, what people mean when they say this is that something is free of "artificial" chemicals, though the distinction can be a bit, well, artificial. But the way the phrase is used will often give pain to the scientifically literate. Take the sign I recently saw at a cleaner around the corner from my kids’ school. They advertise the fact that their "pure organic cleaning" will use only "chemical-free H2O." Again, this requires photographic evidence, so here it is.

                                                        Chemical Free H2O

If they had said "chemical-free water," it wouldn’t have been so bad (except for the fact that they want to charge me to clean my clothes without using soap). But they had to proclaim their water to be "chemical-free" while using the chemical symbol for water.

Then there is the fact that all of this is supposed to be "organic." In scientific terms, there are several meanings for the word "organic." Two of them are the most relevant here. In biology, it means: pertaining to or containing living beings. As one of my Facebook friends quipped, "When water is ‘organic,’ it’s time to boil it before drinking."

In chemistry, "organic" means: pertaining to chemical compounds that contain carbon. Note that in neither of these meanings is H2O "organic." But there’s a bigger irony.

We’re all supposed to be instilled with such an unnatural fear of carbon that we have to proclaim our sugar to be "carbon-free"—yet the same people tell us that the best kind of food is "organic," a word that means "carbon-containing."

This fast-and-loose borrowing of scientific terms has real consequences. Consider a recent study which looked at the health effects of "organic" foods versus food grown in the usual manner. It found, unsurprisingly, that "organic" foods are no more or less organic than any other kind of food. They are chemically and nutritionally indistinguishable. "Organic," in this case, has long since ceased to be a scientific term and has just become a meaningless marketing label used to bilk consumers.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak, when it comes to the scientific ignorance that environmentalists rely on even as they claim the mantle of science. They tell us to drive electric cars that don’t emit CO2, without bothering to tell us that the electricity is generated in power plants that probably burn coal or natural gas, which does emit CO2.

And remember how they changed the name of their theory from "global warming" to "climate change," so that they could claim any weather phenomenon—including snowstorms—as evidence to back them up?

They are relying on the public’s ignorance of the actual history of the climate, which is constantly changing and over geologic time has swung wildly between hot and cold periods as part of its normal, natural variation.

All of this reminds me of the "logic" courses I took as a philosophy major in college.

This was not good, old-fashioned logic; we never cracked a syllogism, nor did we study the classical logical fallacies (leaving us free to commit them willy-nilly). No, this was modern "symbolical logic," a pseudo-science invented at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th. I found that the class gave me no end of difficulty, and I eventually realized why. At the same time, I was studying a legitimate science, advanced mathematics, and I found that my logic class was using all of the same symbols—but it was using them in totally different ways. The humanities types have always been jealous of science and mathematics, with their reputation for rigor and accuracy—not to mention for producing actual, usable results. So they just stole the terminology of science and mathematics, using it as public-relations window dressing, with no regard for its actual scientific meaning.

The environmentalist movement is attempting a similar con. They are stealing the terminology of science to provide cover for an irrational, unscientific fear of industry and technology. And so while they loudly claim to be the tribunes of science, they actually play to and rely on the public’s ignorance of science.

That is how we ended up living in a world of carbon-free sugar, chemical-free H2O, and science-free environmentalism.